Moses A. Kargbo: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 December 2019:
Tuesday, December 3, 2019, marked the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. This is a story of determination and generosity. In May 2018, Eleanor Massah Abdulai met Louise Twining-Ward, World Bank staff member, whilst walking along Lumley beach in Freetown.
At the age of 10 years, Eleanor lost her right leg when she accidentally stepped on an unexploded land mine. Eleanor and her parents were fleeing from rebel forces, who had just attacked the diamond mining town of Tongo in the Kenema District.
For three weeks she had no medical assistance
“The lower part of my right leg was completely ripped off. My family and I were devastated. My mother used traditional herbs to tend to my injury. My father carried me on his back and walked through the jungle for over five miles; no food, no water and no shower,” she explains. Since then, Eleanor had been on crutches.
When Louise met Eleanor, she was in Sierra Leone on a World Bank mission. “I saw a group of people playing soccer on crutches and immediately I was very interested. And I saw this one woman sitting on the side, she wasn’t included. We ended up exchanging numbers and we kept in contact,” she says.
Since then Louise has encouraged and supported Eleanor’s work to empower people living with disabilities in Sierra Leone. Nine months later, Eleanor was awarded a grant from the New York based organization ASPIRE and Prosthetics in Motion.
In November/December 2019, during Eleanor’s visit to New York as part of the Single Leg Amputees Sports Association, the two reconnected and she was hosted by Louise who lives in New York.
As a result of that publicity, Eleanor attracted a grant to get a new prosthesis worth roughly $60,000, which coincidentally was being fitted as the world commemorated the International Day for Persons with Disabilities last Tuesday.
On that day, December 3, 2019, Eleanor walked again for the first time in 21 years, since she lost her leg.
“Today being the global day for disabled people, I’m ready to go live to talk about things I’ve been through,” she says. “A lot of people have been messaging me saying: ‘you’ve been inspiring us with the things you do’. So, today is the opportunity to tell them my story; and help kids who are living what I’ve been through.
“Today is one of my happiest days, seeing myself on International Day for Persons with Disabilities standing on two legs. I haven’t slept for two nights because of the excitement. I know what it feels like being on crutches for so many years, especially in a challenging society like ours,” Eleanor said.
Eleanor is working on setting up an orphanage to give life to children facing similar situation as hers. “We are trying to get them a home because some of them are left on the street to care for themselves. And they are exposed to early pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and other vices.”
Louise’s idea is to have a prosthetics organization in New York to work with a company in Sierra Leone that is making prosthetics for people with disabilities. “This is one opportunity for her but not every disabled person in Sierra Leone can have the opportunity to go to New York and have a prosthetic leg fitted. Hopefully, we can have a technology transfer,” she says.
Eleanor’s story is helping to highlight some of the important interventions World Bank staff coming on missions are making to impact the lives of local people outside their official Bank engagements.
On Tuesday, the World Bank Sierra Leone Country Office also celebrated the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, and reiterated the World Bank Group’s 10 Commitments for enhancing global action for disability-inclusive development (visit: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability#1).
“To the World Bank Group, disability is a development challenge, not a charity issue,” said Dr. Gayle Martin, Country Manager for Sierra Leone.
“In delivering on our 10 Commitments on Disability Inclusion, we’ll step up efforts across our portfolio. Let’s hold all stakeholders accountable on this issue.”